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Interview Fri Jul 24 2015

Pinwheel Records Opens its Doors in Pilsen

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Open to the public for just over a week now, Pinwheel Records is both a haven for eclectic records and a communal space to unwind and celebrate music's immense influence upon our lives. With a cozy address in the neighborhood of Pilsen, Pinwheel Records aims to create an experience for its customers, with in-store performances (the first occurring this Sunday, July 26) and a record collection with distinct personality. I spoke with the store's founder, Scott Schaaf, regarding the store's creation, curating the collection, and the importance of community.

I know Pinwheel Records just opened in Pilsen. Tell me about the path to its creation here in Chicago.

So I've thought about starting a record store for as long as I can remember. I thought about starting a label, I wanted to do something in music, I don't really have any musical talents, so it seemed like a store or label was the best thing that I could do instead. It's something that I've had in the back of my mind for a long time and I turned 32 and decided it's time to do something new with my life and start a new chapter. I've called it a pre-midlife crisis a few times.

So I talked to my friends, they were really supportive, and my girlfriend has been amazingly supportive, and we decided to make the leap and go for it. It was actually New Year's Eve of 2014 that I decided to do this. Almost eight months in, here we are. It's been pretty incredible.

That's a quick turnaround too, so that's awesome you were able to get started so soon.

We thought about it, and I've been a record collector for a really long time, and we've seen the growth and the interest in vinyl. People are buying records like crazy, and we were shocked that a place as cool as Pilsen didn't have a record store yet, so we totally wanted to jump on that as soon as we could so we could lead the charge a little bit. We didn't want to wait. We wanted to get going, no dragging our feet or anything like that, so that's why we jumped into it so quickly. We knew it was a good idea and it was something that we really wanted to do, so we went for it.

I'm really excited as well about having a record store in Pilsen, it's such a great area and there are so many local businesses popping up there now. Are you planning any collaborations or events with any other local businesses there?

Well, we've definitely become friends with a lot of the businesses down here, everyone's been outrageously supportive. We've asked a lot of questions prior to opening our doors and we continue to ask a lot of questions to businesses in the area. I'm sure there will be some collaborations in the future, we're already becoming friends with a lot of these businesses so I think the next logical step is a collaboration, but we don't know what that is yet. Hopefully we'll be able to get together on some cool things here in the future.

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The name Pinwheel Records has to do with The White Sox - what are the sentiments behind making this the name?

A lot of my friends have said, Scott, when we think of you, two things come to mind - music and baseball. As I mentioned, I'm a big music dork and a record collector, and I'm also a huge White Sox fan. I was struggling to come up with a name for the store and I figured we're going to be on the South Side, maybe a little subtle shout out to the Sox would be a fun thing to do. Pinwheel came to mind because I've always really liked that design element on The White Sox scoreboard, going back to old Comiskey Park with the pinwheel at the top of the scoreboard.

That's something that I've always liked and it's fun and playful, and that's kind of what we're going for with this record store. We're not too cool, we're not going to be Championship Vinyl from High Fidelity, we want to be a fun place for people to hang out. There's no attitude here, there are no judgments. If you buy a record we don't like, that doesn't matter. As long as you're coming in and share our love of music, we can get along just fine. You're helping pay our rent, it's a judgment-free zone, so come on in and have some fun. We've got a Pac-Man machine and a couple couches. We want people to hang out, have fun, and enjoy themselves. There's no attitude here, and I think the name hopefully conveys that.

What kind of records will the store focus on selling mainly? When you were curating it, is it a lot of local records, or a wide mix?

We're trying to not necessarily be a specialty store. There are shops that are very focused on soul/R&B stuff, or there are stores that are more into noise and psych, that sort of stuff. We want to try and cover as many bases as we can. We're going to have plenty of classic rock, plenty of R&B and soul, we've got a really great jazz section. There's going to be hopefully something for everybody. We've got hip hop, we've got classical, and my personal favorite part of the store is our own Sports section.

I'm not talking sports like "Superbowl Shuffle" or something like that, although that is somewhere in here, but we actually have a section dedicated entirely to Huey Lewis & The News, their album, Sports. I'm a huge Huey Lewis fan, and every time we go shopping for records, we find a copy of it. So we have a whole section dedicated to Sports. Again, we're not trying to be too serious and cool here, so it's something that people can have a laugh at when they see it. We've only been open a few days, and I think every day we've been open we've sold a copy of Sports. Apparently Chicago shares my love of Huey Lewis, so that's very reassuring, and it's always very exciting when someone brings a copy up to the counter.

You did have an IndieGogo campaign to raise funds for the store, what were these funds allocated to directly?

The IndieGogo campaign helped us immensely. We were able to buy all the supplies we needed to build our record shelf. That added up very quickly. It helped build our collection just a little bit. It helped us cover some of the fees with the city and state to open up, we were able to buy furniture, we were able to get the Pac-Man machine, and building the inventory was huge. We already had a very large selection of used records, but new records are certainly going to be more expensive, and we wanted to make sure that we had plenty of new stuff when we opened the doors, so that certainly went towards that as well. Every dime from the IndieGogo campaign has gone back into the store and will continue to do so.

I just have to say, that we couldn't have done this store without the support from friends, family, strangers, and it's not just the IndieGogo campaign. People have volunteered their time to help us build and clean and paint, and just offer a little bit of therapy too when things got really crazy or stressful. Everybody has just been amazing, and the amount of support that we've gotten from folks has made me feel like, this is really going to work out. So many people believe in this project and the store, and it couldn't help but inspire me and make me feel like this is going to work out. Hopefully that is indeed the case, it's just been really amazing to have so much support from the community and from friends and family and everybody else.

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I'm sure that's reflected too in the atmosphere of the store, where you just want it to be a community in itself.

Yeah, it's not a vanity project, sure there's stuff here that I like, and I did a lot of things I thought would be fun, but I want it to be a place for everybody. We're going to have in-store performances. We'll have bands come in and play fairly often, and we hope to host any other events. We would like to think of ourselves as an event space. We want this to be a place for the whole community, for everybody to come scope out and hang out and do some really cool stuff here.

In the future, if you could stock Pinwheel Records with five records of any kind, which would you choose?

I always have a different answer depending on my mood and what I'm feeling, so I'd have to say my favorite record of all time is London Calling by The Clash. That's always going to be here. You gotta try and cover all the genres, too. I think my favorite hip-hop record of all time, It Was Written by Nas. Unfortunately, that's not on vinyl, or hasn't been on vinyl since 1996, but that would be in my store. You're getting a lot of bang for your buck with The White Album by The Beatles, so I've gotta have that. I guess I have to have Sports because, why not. I'm going to say anything by Sam Cooke needs to be in the store, too.

~*~

Pinwheel Records is now open within Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, situated at 1722 W. 18th Street. Peruse the extensive selection of records 11am - 8pm daily. Stop by Pinwheel Records at 3pm on Sunday, July 26, for the first in-store performance by The Thons and The Teen Age.

 
GB store

Matthew / July 31, 2015 2:49 PM

'I'm really excited as well about having a record store in Pilsen, it's such a great area and there are so many local businesses popping up there now.'

Lots of new local businesses popping up in Pilsen, as opposed to the hundreds of restaurants and stores owned by families in the community? Can you show at least a little respect to (or at least acknowledge) the long-standing community?

GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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